For this first time in New York, Mexican artist Minerva Cuevas has a solo show, on view in an enticing habitat at the Mishkin Gallery. Originally curated by Gabriel Bogossian and Solange Farkas for Videobrasil in 2018, DISIDENCIA, take its name from the artist’s eponymous work, which anchors eight multi-media components that collectively unveil questions about the theorization of knowledge, capitalist notions of value and exchange, and politics.
Part of Baruch College of The City University of New York, the public university system, the Mishkin Gallery rightly takes the term “public” seriously, and consequently, has assumed a civic responsibility towards supporting the work of artists that call into question power structures and confront the realities of daily life. Showcasing the work of Minerva Cuevas exemplifies the gallery’s interest in accountability and studies of the communal.
Cuevas’ No Room for Play, a rear projection video work displayed on a hanging screen, typifies this focus and depicts images of abandoned playgrounds in Berlin after the Second World War. Its narrative alludes to the motto of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin: “Faster, Higher, Stronger,” while the voice of a young girl states in German: “There was a time when we were flowers on our heads …wishing it would never get dark so we could continue to play.”
Fittingly, the work is installed in an area of the gallery that faces Gramercy Park, a small fenced-in green space and one of the only truly private parks in New York City. Through this placement, the curation echoes critiques of urban development embedded in the work itself, which suggests the ways in which economic resources and city planning decisions can be exploited for corporate and private benefit.
Disidencia (2007–ongoing) offers another instance of Cuevas’ research into the political negotiation of public space. It is a growing archive formatted as a video and accompanied by the music of Mexican composer Pablo Salazar and US musicians The Kronos Quartet. The footage from Mexico City includes protests taking place, with picket signs, street advertisements, outdoor markets, and fragments of monuments, among other public demonstrations. Cuevas makes visible the forms in which citizens are dissident, protesting and asserting their agency in actions that are shared and collective.
Particularly relevant within a US context, the earliest work included, Donald McRonald (2003) is displayed through video documentation and the inclusion of the costume from the performance piece, in which a performer dressed up like Ronald McDonald stands in front of a McDonald’s near the Parisian contemporary art center, Palais de Tokyo. In a humorous tone, the clown discusses the diseases you can get from eating a hamburger at the fast-food chain, and details the low paid labor of its employees. Through its performative nature, the work reveals the grotesque side of consumption, making passersby and diners accomplices of an oppressive and unjust capitalist economy.
Minerva Cuevas: DISIDENCIA gathers a body of work that criticizes institutions, revealing layers of criticality and globally minded research. Cuevas exposes the contradictions of the socio-economic systems that rule our daily life, turning the Mishkin into a place of public investigation. Through her artistic practice, Minerva Cuevas calls for political action that could change reality.
Minerva Cuevas: DISIDENCIA continues at the Mishkin Gallery (135 East 22 Street, Gramercy, Manhattan) through November 1, 2019. The exhibition was originally curated by Gabriel Bogossian and Solange Farkas, and the Mishkin presentation was organized by Alaina Claire Feldman.